HONOLULU (AP) - A Honolulu police officer has pleaded guilty in an indoor marijuana-growing operation, saying it was his girlfriend who got him into the mess that will cost him his job.
Michael Steven Chu said in federal court Thursday that it was his girlfriend who got him involved in growing and selling marijuana. "She was the one, and I was helping her," he said in court, pleading guilty to conspiring to cultivate 48 plants and to possess with intent to distribute 49 pounds of processed marijuana.
Girlfriend Athena Sui Lee pleaded guilty earlier this week and said Chu wanted to treat her health ailments in a legal way, which is why they had a medical marijuana card. Chu said he planned to sell some of the marijuana and use some to treat his back pain.
Chu is on unpaid leave, the Honolulu Police Department said.
They each face maximum five-year prison terms. After Chu is sentenced in December, he will be a convicted felon prohibited from possessing a firearm, making him ineligible to be a police officer.
In the meantime, federal public defender Sean Coutain said, Chu can return to work next week if the court amends the conditions of his release on bond. If he returns to work, he'll be placed on restricted duty.
According to his plea agreement, Lee arranged for about 14 pounds of marijuana to be shipped from California by Federal Express to the Honolulu apartment where Chu lived and that Chu helped her maintain an indoor marijuana-growing operation.
Federal agents intercepted the package, which contained seven juvenile marijuana plants. While agents were executing a search warrant in April at the apartment, Chu showed up carrying nutrients and materials used for growing, while Lee had a bag with about $12,000 cash in $2,000 bundles.
Agents also found that the couple were growing marijuana at a Mililani home, which was the address listed on the medical marijuana card.